Bob Paisley spent more than 50 years of his 77-year-old life in various roles at Liverpool Football Club. That he did so with an astonishing array of success, only serves to highlight why the Englishman finds himself so high on our distinguished list.
A measured man, full of class and calm, Paisley was a brilliant manager who took Liverpool to an ascendancy that has ensured they’re ranked in the world’s most prestigious clubs decades later.
Early life and Playing Career
Born in 1919 near Sunderland, just a couple of months after the end of the First World War, Paisley described where he was born as ‘a close-knit community where coal was king and football was religion’. He was born in a mining family that just managed to make ends meet, and was passionate about the beautiful game from the beginning. Paisley was one of the best players in his school, and eventually found his way to Liverpool, signing up for the club in 1939 before his 20th birthday.
Paisley’s initial appearances were limited because of the outbreak of the Second World War, though, and he could only take part in a few friendly matches outside the evacuation areas. He would play with the club for 15 years and eventually amassing 253 appearances for The Reds.
Just after he retired in 1954, Paisley would join the coaching staff as a self-taught physiotherapist. His influence in the dressing room would steadily increase, and he would take on more responsibilities.
Appointment of Bill Shankly as Liverpool manager
When Bill Shankly took over the head coach role in 1959, Paisley would form an amazing duo with the Scotsman.
Not only would Bob Paisley achieve unprecedented success at the managerial helm of Liverpool years later but he was also essentially the right-hand man when Bill Shankly was building the ‘Liverpool Empire’ of the 1960’s and 70’s from the ground.
As Liverpool would go from strength to strength with Shankly at the helm, Paisley would be happy contributing in the background. While Shankly roared Liverpool onto great success, Paisley was the one focusing on tactics and studying the opposition before matches.
One trophy that would elude the club at the time was the European Cup, and when Shankly called time on his managerial career after the 1974 FA Cup final, Liverpool football club still had gears to climb.
Paisley made head coach
Bob Paisley would initially be reluctant to take on the role of the manager. He had spent so long as the assistant and was hesitant to change his role but the board eventually convinced him. They were glad they did, as Paisley would lead Liverpool to even greater success than they had achieved under Shankly.
Liverpool would win the League title 6 times, never finishing lower than 2nd with Paisley at the helm. They won another 11 trophies, including 3 league Cups, 6 Charity Shields and the UEFA Cup. What stood out most of all though, was the success in the pinnacle of European football – The European Cup.
In the 1976-77 season, Borussia Mönchengladbach would be vanquished 3-1 in the final to give The Reds their first ever success in the competition. They would go on to win the coveted trophy another two times which only elevated Paisley’s status in English football and an immortal figure in Liverpool folklore.
He became, at the time, the only manager to win 3 European Cups, until Carlo Ancelotti matched his feat decades later.
Paisley would retire in 1983, only to shift to the boardroom as Director and complete 50 years in the service of Liverpool football club in 1989, a stunning feat.
The Englishman’s Liverpool teams featuring the likes of Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness cemented their legacy of being one of the most iconic teams of all time not only with their rampant success but the way they played and approached the game.
Paisley wasn’t a manager to come out roaring in press conferences or come up with the most inventive and eye-catching quotes but that didn’t mean he didn’t command the attention and aura of the footballing world. His devotion to Liverpool, and his brilliance that established the club at the pinnacle of the game will always be remembered.
"This club has been my life. I'd go out and sweep the street and be proud to do it for Liverpool FC if they asked me to" – Bob Paisley.Published 26 Jan 2017, 14:26 IST